Apr 16, 2019 - Sale 2505

Sale 2505 - Lot 113

Price Realized: $ 55,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 25,000 - $ 35,000
FROM THE LAST PORTRAIT OF LINCOLN FROM LIFE (LINCOLN, ABRAHAM.) [Wilson, Matthew Henry; artist.] Large oil portrait of Lincoln. Oil on canvas, 26 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches oval to sight, unsigned; light restoration visible under black light; in elaborate early gesso frame with moderate wear. [Washington, DC], [1865]

Additional Details

Matthew Henry Wilson (1814-1892) was the last artist Lincoln sat for. He secured several sittings with the president in February 1865, and also made use of a 5 February 1865 photograph by Alexander Gardiner. The portrait was commissioned by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, who paid Wilson $85 on 12 April, three days before Lincoln's death. Wilson's original portrait, signed and dated April 1865, is at the Indiana State Museum. Wilson also kept a copy of the portrait for his own use. His diary from 1865 describes the production of a copy of the Lincoln portrait commissioned by the lithographer Louis Prang starting on 20 April, three more copies from 16 May to 21 June, and then two more from 9 to 28 December. One was done for Lincoln's friend Joshua Speed, and another was done for the Department of the Navy. We don't know who commissioned the present example, but it has been in the same private family collection for just over 100 years.
"The portrait seemed to suggest grief melting away from this Lincoln. . . . Here was Lincoln stripped to the bare essentials of his humanity: stripped of girth, sapped of strength, but free at last from anguish--if only for the brief peace he would survive to enjoy"--Holzer, Lincoln Image, pages 140-144. See also William J. Sims, "Matthew Henry Wilson," in Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin 37:4 (October 1972), pages 97-136, which includes extensive extracts from Wilson's diary.
Provenance: sold by textile magnate George S. Palmer (1855-1934) of New London, CT to William Carnill (1857-1925) of Rydal, PA in 1918 (see Philadelphia Inquirer, 11 November 1922, which describes it as a Wilson portrait; also American Art News, 14 December 1918 and 22 March 1919); bequeathed by his widow Zelia Gross Carnill (1865-1940) to grandson William Carnill II (1919-1989) in 1940; consigned by the estate of his widow Elinor Carnill (1924-2018).